Bringing design thinking to grade schools

blogNashville was lucky to receive a visit from SparkTruck yesterday as part of their cross-country tour to bring design thinking and hands-on learning to young students.

From higher ed to primary ed

SparkTruck is a mobile maker lab run by a handful of alumni from Stanford’s d.school. Their goal is to bring fun, hands-on learning workshops to grade school and middle school children across the US.

The idea for SparkTruck came from a year-long thesis project at Stanford in which a group of d.school students talked with teachers, students, and other experts about hands-on learning. The group learned that many schools don’t have a budget or room in their curriculum to support programs for young builders.

SparkTruck is promoting these types of projects with workshops hosted through their “educational build-mobile.” In the back of their truck, they’ve packed a 3D printer, a laser cutter, and lots of tools for curious minds to get building.

Physical learning and digital learning: BFFs

We love what the SparkTruck team is doing. At Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute—an establishment that shares many beliefs and practices with the d.school—Ben & I studied design thinking for both digital and physical products. In fact, Ben’s capstone project required extensive prototyping and iteration of a collaborative educational system with a major physical device component. Kodiak wouldn’t be the product it is today if that work wasn’t a part of his higher education.

Designing physical objects taps parts of your brain that aren’t activated by virtual interaction—but the payoff carries into the digital world. As today’s children grow up in a world where technology is embedded in an increasingly large number of objects, it will become more and more important that they learn to harmonize the physical with the digital.

Read about SparkTruck’s Nashville stop on their blog.